Kickball, a great way to meet the stars of the Internet

At South by Southwest Interactive, playing a very casual game of kickball is a way for some to get over being intimidated by the star power of famous bloggers.

A kickball player at Kick, the kickball game organized by Six Apart Vice President Anil Dash, at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, on Saturday. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

AUSTIN, Texas--I never thought I would have a chance to wear sweatpants to a professional networking event, but thanks to Kick, count that as one more boundary broken.

The brainchild of Six Apart Vice President and well-known blogger Anil Dash, Kick was a game of geek kickball that took place Saturday morning here in a park near the Austin Convention Center, where South by Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) is in full swing.

The event involves large numbers of geeks playing kickball on a weekend morning, many hung over from partying too hard the night before .

Anil Dash started Kick in 2002 as a way to help him get over being intimidated by well-known Internet celebrities. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

Dash started Kick in 2002 as a way to meet people.

"I didn't know anybody," Dash told me on the field of battle Saturday. "I was intimidated about meeting all these Internet celebrities and I thought, what's less intimidating than kickball."

Given the high preponderance of players on the field Saturday who were, shall we say, not pro sports material, Dash said that one principle above all others governed how the game is run.

"The most important thing," he said, "is that nobody gets picked last."

In fact, this year's version of the game, which is the first since 2005--because Dash has been too busy with Six Apart to come to SXSWi--didn't have anyone picking sides. Instead, we all lined up and Dash separated us into two teams by counting off players as being on team one or team two.

Then, once separated, he tasked both squads to come up with team names.

"That's probably the most important challenge of the day," he told us all.

With appropriate geek irony, one player on my team, which was team one, suggested off-handedly that we name ourselves "team two." The line got huge laughter and the name was chosen.

Kickball players seem a little perplexed by where the ball is during Kick at SXSWi in Austin on Saturday. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

The actual team two, meanwhile, called themselves, "The return of Cobra Kai," a reference to the film, The Karate Kid.

As the teams prepared to start playing, a bunch of people on my team huddled up and began exchanging business cards. It was an odd scene.

"I've done my business for the day," one player exclaimed. "Now let's play some kickball."

While most of the 60 or 70 people who showed up were there to play, a group of others gathered on the sidelines to kibbitz and shoot pictures. Among the non-playing photographers were Valleywag editor Owen Thomas and Laughing Squid blogger Scott Beale.

As for me, I tried to straddle the fence, playing the game part of the time and standing off to the side shooting pictures when not actively in the field.

It did seem, though, that there were more cameras on display than players, not surprising given the number of bloggers in attendance.

And while the game was fun and good-spirited, the park also just seemed a good place for SXSWi attendees to hang out and catch up with friends. Among the kibbitzers I saw were Upcoming.org founder Andy Baio, io9 blogger Annalee Newitz , and Lifehacker blogger Gina Trapani.

The funniest moment of the day is when technology adviser and investor Eric Marcoullier lost his shoe while kicking. He later posed for pictures with the shoe in a show of proper humor about the gaffe. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

One of the funniest moments of the day was when technologist and start-up adviser Eric Marcoullier went to the plate to kick for the first time. He was dressed up a little more than most and was wearing loafers. So when he took his mighty kick at the ball, it went only a few feet. But his shoe flew off his foot, sailing at least 40 or 50 feet into the field, where it was effortlessly caught by someone on the other team.

Massive laughter ensued.

But Marcoullier would not be cowed by his gaffe. He kicked the next pitch far over the picnic table on the other side of the field for a home run that brought everyone to their, ahem, feet.

Marcoullier might also have been wearing the best shirt of the day under his blazer. A green shirt available from the site VCwear.com, it read, "F--k it, I'll fund that." Many people came over to shoot pictures of his attire.

Marcoullier might also have been wearing the best T-shirt of the day. Daniel Terdiman/CNET News.com

In the end, a good time was had by all. At one point, I was standing in right field awaiting the very unlikely chance that someone would kick the ball to me, and I noticed that the large gentleman standing next to me was much more engrossed in his iPhone than the action on the field.

It occurred to me that he might not notice it if someone kicked the ball to him, and so I said, "They get an extra run if they knock your iPhone out of your hand."

But instead of taking offense, he laughed. Because if there's one thing that geeks know how to do, it's laugh at ourselves.

See more stories in CNET News.com's coverage of SXSWi (click here).

 

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